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Crude Oil Supply Drops, but Prices Remain Tied to Syria

Paul Ausick

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report this morning. U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 1.8 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory to 360.2 million barrels, and they remain near the upper limit of the five-year range for this time of the year.

Total gasoline inventories also decreased by 1.8 million barrels last week and remain in the upper half of the five-year average range. Total motor gasoline supplied (the EIA’s measure of consumption) averaged 9.1 million barrels a day over the past four weeks -- down by about 0.3% from the same period a year ago.

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Distillate inventories rose by 500,000 barrels last week and remain near the lower limit of the average range. Distillate product supplied averaged 3.7 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up by 6.9% when compared with the same period last year. Distillate production totaled about 5 million barrels a day last week.

The American Petroleum Institute last night reported that crude inventories fell by 4.2 million barrels last week, together with a decline of 387,000 barrels in gasoline supplies and a drop of 109,000 barrels in distillate supplies. Platts estimated a drop of 2.5 million barrels in crude inventories, a drop of 1 million barrels in gasoline inventories and an increase of 800,000 barrels in distillate inventories.

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Crude prices were trading higher before the EIA report at around $107.70 a barrel and rose to around $107.90 shortly after the report was released.

For the past week, crude imports averaged about 8.3 million barrels a day, down about 119,000 barrels a day from the previous week. Refineries were running at 91.7% of capacity, with daily input of 15.9 million barrels a day, about 162,000 barrels a day more than the previous week.

Crude oil prices have fallen by about $2 a barrel since the prior week’s report of a 3 million barrel increase in inventories. Price volatility is more a function now of how near traders think the U.S. is to taking military action against Syria. The current view is that President Obama’s attempt at gathering congressional support will take until later next week. As we have noted before, Syria’s impact on the global crude market is more political than physical; the country produces just 300,000 barrels of crude a day.

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Gasoline prices rose again this week. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge report, a gallon of regular gasoline costs about $3.59 today, compared with about $3.56 a week ago. Last month the price was $3.61 a gallon, and one year ago the price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.82.

The United States Oil ETF (USO) is up 0.7%, at $38.60 in a 52-week range of $30.79 to $39.46.

The United States Gasoline ETF (UGA) is down about 0.7%, at $60.48, in a 52-week range of $53.35 to $65.86.

The United States Brent Oil ETF (BNO) is up less than 0.1%, at $44.38 in a 52-week range of $36.88 to $45.05. The annual high was also set today.

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